First impressions and advanced billing matter. It is the reason why so many of us have been so slow to recognize how good a pitcher Kyle Kendrick has become.
The perception problems starts with the fact that we have been watching him forever. We have seen every mistake he has made, every bit of bad body language he has exhibited. We have been told along the way about the lectures that manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee have delivered. We have counted the trips back and forth the Triple-A.
On a staff with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, Kendrick always was going to be lumped in with the rest. That's just the way of the world. He came here as a guy who did not have overwhelming stuff, who was always going to be a back-end-of-the-rotation guy, somebody whose best attribute was his versatility in a sport where versatility is an underrated commodity.
Kendrick could spot-start, and he could pitch long relief, and he could be a fourth or fifth starter if injuries or circumstances demanded. That was the reputation. If somebody shows up with a ton of promise, he gets every benefit of the doubt because he has sponsorship within the organization. If somebody shows up as a pitcher thought to have a ceiling as a No. 5 starter, well, the same thing kind of happens in reverse. Rather than getting the benefit of the doubt, every mistake gets magnified instead -- because it fits with the pre-established organizational narrative.
What few of us seem to want to recognize, though, is that professional players get better over time. It is not always about the pre-established narrative. Sometimes it is and sometimes you can tell at a very early age that a player is going to be a success -- but there are plenty of other times when development is a surprise.
Kendrick has matured physically -- he just looks stronger. He has matured in every way, it seems. More of his pitches are effective now. His change-up is excellent. The result so far this season has been a 2.43 ERA and a 3-1 record and status as the team's most consistent starting pitcher in the opening leg of the 2013 season. After a rocky first game, there has been little to criticize.
Which means what for the future? Don't know. To try to predict, and to install a happier false narrative to replace the first one, would be dishonest. But after everything, after all of this time, Kendrick deserves to be looked at with a different set of eyes. That's all. Think of it this way: the next time he falters, at the very least, the man has earned the benefit of the doubt.